How March Madness Works

NCAA Basketball Tournament 'Pods' and 'Seeds'

Talking about the NCAA Tournament can sometimes sound like a conversation about gardening. Like gardens, the tournament includes pods and seeds. Seeds refer to the placement of a team in one of four regions, and pods refer to the method of grouping seeds at particular first-round and second-round tournament sites. The same committee that selects teams for the tournament also decides how teams are seeded and where they play.

As we learned earlier, the field of teams is divided into four geographical regions. Each region has between 16 and 18 teams, which are assigned a seed number of one through 18, with the best team in the region awarded the No. 1 seed.

Traditionally, the highest seeds (Nos. 1 through 8) have enjoyed more success than the lower seeds (Nos. 9 through 16). The lower seeds represent potential Cinderellas of the tournament. A Cinderella team is one that unexpectedly achieves success in the tournament. Traditionally, Cinderella's chariot turns back into a pumpkin before getting to the Final Four.

On the other hand, four true Cinderellas have made the men's Final Four in recent years: George Mason (No. 11 in 2006), Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) (No. 11 in 2011), Wichita State (No. 9 in 2013) and Syracuse (No. 10 in 2016). And two other borderline Cinderellas — No. 8 Butler in 2011 and No. 7 South Carolina in 2017 — also made surprise appearances the Final Four [source: Norlander].